Quite a ride
by E.Escher - 23rd Jan 2017
'Take a seat,' Brian gestured with the gun. 'We're just going to drive around town and get to know each other, yeah?'
The pair climbed in and sat down in the back seat. Brian's seat was rear-facing, so he could keep an eye on them. Colin looked angry, and the girl's slightly-bored expression was curiously familiar.
'I remember you,' he said, smiling. 'You were at the bank this morning. The girl with nothing in her bag.'
She rolled her eyes. 'Yeah, yeah. I recognise you, too. Well done, aren't we all clever? Is there some reason why you're kidnapping us at gunpoint?'
'This isn't kidnapping, this is just some friends taking a ride in a taxi. Sure, I happen to have a gun, and yeah, if you give me half a reason I'll pop that pretty little head of yours all over that back window.'
She smirked. 'That sounds a little like a threat.' She held thumb and forefinger close. 'Little bit.'
'It is, but I'm not here for you. I'm here for him, you're just the icing on the cake. One of those weird little coincidences.' He let the smile die on his face, giving her his best professional-killer stare. 'I don't like coincidences.'
'That's a shame,' she replied. 'I bet you run into some real doozies, hanging around this guy.'
He narrowed his eyes. 'What the hell does that mean? What are you, his handler?'
Colin looked lost. 'I thought you were going to do some explaining.'
'I did say that, didn't I? You want it long and complex or quick and dirty?'
Colin scowled. 'Get to the point, Brian.'
'Fair enough. I'm a hitman.'
The scowl deepened. 'And?'
'And my superiors want you dead.'
'You don't seem surprised that I kill people for money. That was supposed to be my big reveal, and I'm really disappointed by this lack of a reaction. You're hurting my feelings, mate.'
'It doesn't come as a huge surprise, in the light of recent events. I always knew you were a bit crazy, so yeah, I can deal with it.' Colin shrugged. 'Everything in my life is messed up. You're just another part of the mess. Closest thing to a friend I've had in years, why wouldn't you turn out to be a contract killer?'
The girl laughed, turned to Colin. 'You remember what I was saying about awkward coincidences? All these years you've been wondering about death, and just as you're about to find the answers, this guy turns up with a gun.'
Brian felt his knuckles tighten.
'Don't talk about me like I'm not here! I'm not just some part of your little story! You're part of mine! I'm the hero of this one, you're just a background detail. I'm my own man. I do what I like, and nobody can stop me.'
She turned back to him. 'If you do what you like, who's giving you orders?'
He blinked. 'That's none of your business.'
'What's the harm in telling us? We're at your mercy, we both know you're going to kill Colin anyway, and I expect you're planning to kill me too,' she flashed a mocking grin. 'I've seen your face, after all, and I am super-annoying.'
Brian grit his teeth; she had a point, and she really was annoying. So annoying it was obviously a deliberate ploy to manipulate him, make him angry. Upon realising that, he felt a cold and icy calm flow through him. He wasn't an animal, to be goaded and made to jump through hoops. He was an apex predator, and if she though he was going to kill her just because she said so she had a lesson to learn about professionalism.
He hit her. A straight punch, left-handed but still powerful, right on the chin. He didn't even look, just lashed out while keeping his gaze and his gun locked on Colin. He was an old-fashioned guy, so he was sure to react.
Predictably, his eyes went wide with outrage and he prepared to attack. Brian waved the gun over to the girl.
'I wouldn't mate. I can still shoot her.'
He glanced over at the girl, and was pleased to note that she was out cold, hanging limp against the seatbelt. Brian couldn't see a bruise, but Colin followed his gaze, looking at the sleeping woman's face.
'Or I might just mess her up a bit. I haven't really had to practice my craft very much, of late, thanks to you, but since you'll soon be out of the picture maybe I should get back into it, eh?'
Hatred and confusion warred for dominance on Colin's face. 'I have no idea what you're talking about.'
'I kill people, for money,' he explained. 'Except since I met you, I haven't actually had to kill anybody.'
'You're out of work? Am I supposed to feel sad?'
'That's not what I mean and you know it!'
Colin shook his head. 'I really don't.'
'Every job I take, the target is already dead when I arrive.'
'Really? And you think that's something to do with me? You're being, what? Gazumped? You think I'm stealing your kills?'
'I don't know! I don't know how you're doing it, but I know it's you, somehow. Ever since I met you, every job has been ruined somehow.' God, he was dense! How could he make it any more obvious? 'I thought you were my good luck charm, but you're not. You're something evil.'
Colin's expression changed, and Brian knew he'd struck a nerve.
'Dozens of people dead by accident or suicide, and then only common element is you.'
Colin frowned. 'Surely the more relevant common element would be you that you were on your way to kill them.'
'Aha, but you see, it only started when I met you. I've killed lots of people before that, a lot of people, and it was always pretty straightforward. Rifle, crosshair, boom, headshot, paycheck.'
'Sounds easy enough,' agreed Colin. 'And the pay's good, is it?'
'You ever heard the phrase "make it look like an accident", Colin? They love that. And the police can't pin anything on anybody because these deaths are accidents! Great for me, I get a bonus. But sometimes they don't want it to look like an accident. They want to show somebody they mean business, and if the target falls under a bus it doesn't have quite the same impact, you know what I'm saying?'
'Frankly, not really.'
'I'm saying it steals my thunder. I'm saying I've lost control of my life. There are forces at work that I don't understand, and I don't like it. I don't like it at all, and I want to know what it is. I think it's you, and after I kill you I'll find out.' He squinted along the top of the gun, imagining a neat bullet-hole between the man's eyebrows. 'If it carries on happening, then I guess I was wrong, but I think it'll stop.'
'But you won't have your answers.'
'No. So before I kill you, you're going to tell me everything, and if you have nothing to tell me, then there's no point keeping you alive.'
The girl spoke, surprising them both. 'I can clear that up for you,' she said, sitting upright. 'Would you believe it's all coincidence?'
Brian blinked. What the hell? 'I thought I knocked you out,' he complained.
'I was faking, and also doing a little research.'
'What? Research?' he laughed. 'You were dreaming, sweetheart.'
'You say your superiors told you to kill Colin. Did they say why?' She counted off on her fingers. 'He's not in any publicly-available database, he's done nothing to attract anybody's attention, he's not connected to any criminal groups, or linked to any government body.'
'He was in the army. Maybe he made some enemies'
She smiled. 'That was a long time ago.'
'We have long memories.'
'So why give the job to you?'
Brian growled. 'Because they know something is up, and they know he's at the heart of it.'
'You told them your suspicions?'
'Don't be stupid, I know how mental it sounds. I've said nothing to nobody.'
'So they sent somebody to check up on you, because they didn't trust your recent good fortune.'
'I reckon so, yeah. I guess they want to know what the deal is, too.'
'Ha. That's the thing with coincidences. What is it they say, once is bad luck, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action? You have to ask yourself, though, Brian, what if these numbers no longer apply?' She turned to Colin. 'You don't have to worry about the police, by the way. It seems there was a network problem for about ten minutes, and the cameras on that corner stopped recording. What're the odds, huh?'
Brian hissed. 'Bullshit. Just who are you, anyway? I was warned he'd have backup, but you're not a cop, you don't feel like a rival agency. What's your game?'
'Probability. I play the odds. The longer the better. In my profession, coincidences aren't enemy action, they're a fact of life, something to be expected. Colin and I don't belong here, and that upsets things. Causality takes little shortcuts to keep things running smoothly. For example, you're not going to kill us here in the car, which means we're going to escape.'
'Coincidence. You might want to hold onto something.'
'Jesus!' The taxi driver cried out in alarm and drove up onto the pavement. Brian clutched at the door handle for support as he felt the vehicle begin to skid. He saw a flash of bright lights and heard the roar of a powerful engine as something sleek and fast zoomed past.
The taxi crunched against something solid and slammed to a halt.
'Son of a bitch!' he yelled, twisting in his seat. 'What the hell was that?'
The driver was visibly shaken, not least because Brian had threatened to kill him if there was any trouble. 'Some asshole kids in a Ferrari!'
His mind reeled, and he turned back to the girl. She'd mentioned coincidences, and now... was that his car?
The curious tale of Colin CampbellPart One - How did it come to this?, Chapter 1, Earlier that dayChapter 2, Earlier stillChapter 3, Making a withdrawalChapter 4, August 18th, 2362Chapter 5, Angel of DeathChapter 6, Welcome to 2016.Chapter 7, Denmark, July 2358Chapter 8, After the crashChapter 9, Music of the SpheresChapter 10, Denmark, July 2358Chapter 11, Harbinger FMChapter 12, Denmark, July 2358Chapter 13, Excuses and liesPart Two - So here we are, Chapter 14Chapter 15, Quite a rideChapter 16, Talking the talkChapter 17, Leisurely pursuitChapter 18, Dinner Date with DestinyChapter 19, Chips with everythingChapter 20, HarbingerChapter 21, Time to leaveChapter 22, ManchesterChapter 23, Colin's HouseChapter 24, On the roadChapter 25, Chateau HarbingerChapter 26, ShowdownEpilogue, Debriefing